Understanding Deaf Culture Essay

3057 words - 12 pages

Deaf people are often seen incorrectly. According to a legend, a Greek mythical character named Procrustes, invited tired travelers to rest at his home. Procrustes gave out special accommodations that fit everyone, regardless of the guests’ size. When the guest was shorter than the bed Procrustes owned, Procrustes would stretch the guest’s body to fit and when the guest’s legs were longer than the bed, Procrustes would chop off their legs so they would fit the bed. Aimee K. Whyte and Douglas A. Guiffrida explained the way deaf people are viewed: “Deaf people are often stretched or cut short to assimilate with the majority culture…Deaf people struggle against a procrustean system of hearing and speech and continually experience discrimination” (Whyte and Guiffrida 2008: 190). Deaf culture is seen in a variety of ways. When capitalized, the word “Deaf” focuses on what deaf people have: a living culture in which people have unlimited options to do endless possibilities. Deaf people in America live among hearing people who have a separate cultural belief system. Deaf culture has many values and deaf people have many experiences unique to their culture.
Deaf culture has many values. Deaf culture matters because a culture defines who people are and how they react. According to the article: Signs of Their Times: Deaf Communities and the Culture of Language, “Deafness is, at least in part, a social construction. Understanding the complex nature of communities with deaf members requires attending to how people use and think about language…we need to understand more about the culture of language” (Senghas and Monaghan 2002: 70). People, who want to learn more about this culture, must learn about how the members of this group interact with each other. They must learn how the group works together towards a common goal.
Deaf people have many values that are adapted to their culture. A Deaf person finds power after conversing with fellow Deaf people. This group of people depends on each other. Deaf people live among other cultures that are not always understanding of their cultural values and belief systems. The authors of Signing Naturally Student Workbook explain group empowerment as follows, “Although the Deaf community recognizes individual achievements and talents, contributing to the group’s success is very highly valued. This is different than in American culture where great emphasis is placed on independence, self-reliance, achievement and individual success” (Smith, Lentz, and Mikos 2008: Viii). The Deaf community values group interaction. They want to work together. In general, Americans do not value working together to accomplish a single goal.
A difference between Deaf and hearing people is how they react during conversations. In order to understand Deaf people, we must understand the emotions portrayed in their language, American Sign Language (ASL). The book Signing Naturally points out:
One visible cultural behavior among Deaf signers is...

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